More Airport Flights Disrupted by Drones; This Time in New Jersey

Photo of New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport courtesy of Nicolas Jelly via Unsplash.

One month after drones flying over one of the UK’s busiest airports disrupted service, flights into and out of New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport were halted Tuesday night after two drones were reported flying over nearby Teterboro Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and multiple published reports.

FAA spokesman Greg Martin told Inside Unmanned Systems the agency stopped flights at the airport after the drones were reported over the smaller regional airport, which is about 15 miles away. Flights were halted shortly after 5 p.m. when two flights inbound to Newark said they had sighted the drones, Martin said.

Both of the airports serve the greater metro New York City area.

The two drones were flying at 3,500 feet and have since cleared the airspace over the airport, Martin said. That is an altitude that could put them in the flight path of planes landing at Newark, reported local station WABC-TV. Police helicopters were dispatched to locate the drones but they were unsuccessful.

Arrivals into Newark Airport resumed after a temporary stop, but departures are still on hold because of congestion. The FAA was also not allowing flights bound for Newark from other airports to take off until the backlog of arrivals had cleared. That “ground stop” was expected to be lifted shortly.

This latest incident is similar to stoppages at airports in the UK, when drone sightings at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports brought air traffic to a standstill. The Gatwick incident disrupted holiday travel for two days during Christmas week last month.

The New Jersey incident came just a week after the Department of Transportation unveiled drafts of a long-awaited set of proposals to dramatically expand civilian drone flights while also tightening security. Such new regulations are critical to the industry, which is seeking to expand into unmanned aerial deliveries and scores of other commercial uses.